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Mayoral candidates have first formal debate

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Posted at 11:20 PM, Mar 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-10 23:20:21-05

The Democratic primary in the race to become Baltimore City’s next mayor is just about six weeks away.

On Thursday, nine of the top candidates to replace Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake gathered for a debate at Morgan State University.

A newly-released Baltimore Sun / University of Baltimore poll showed State Senator Catherine Pugh with a narrow lead.  During the debate she promised to lower the city's property taxes, and bring back an old program that could cut down on the number of vacant houses.

“We've got some 30,000 boarded up houses in the city, 14,000 of them belonging to the city, so what we've got to do is bring back the dollar house program,” she said.

In the poll, 26 percent of Democratic voters said they planned to vote for Pugh -- putting her in a virtual tie with former mayor Sheila Dixon, who had 24 percent.

“I have not only the vision, the plan, but I can execute the plan day one,” Dixon said.  “I also know that it takes someone with leadership who can bring all parties together.”

City Councilman Nick Mosby and activist Deray McKesson polled far behind the leaders -- and now they say new leadership is what's needed..

“I know that this city is challenged and the only way that we're going to get through these challenges is if we choose new leadership,” McKesson said.  “If the establishment is what we choose and the familiar is who we choose we know exactly what we're going to get. It's what got us here.”

“Either we can focus on the failed policies and those same casts of characters in the past, or we can forever try to change the trajectory of our city by voting in new leadership with new vision,” said City Councilman Nick Mosby.

City Councilman Carl Stokes is focusing his campaign on child poverty, and failures within the city's public school system.

“They go to schools that don't nurture them, that don't educate them,” Stokes said.  “That don't keep them safe. I've said and I will insist again that the Baltimore City Public Schools are the most racist institution in this city.”

Businessman David Warnock and former prosecutor Elizabeth Embry said solutions for Baltimore City will come from empowering more people to be successful.

“We have to expand the wealth of households in the city. Because if you can't afford your house you're probably one emergency away from being homeless or having to rely on your family members,” Embry said.

“We also need to have a city government that is responsible and respectful to all of us who are the shareholders of Baltimore City,” Warnock said.  “We can't take people's houses away for 250 dollar water bills. It's got to stop.”

Primary day in Maryland is April 26th.